10 Warning Signs your Child might have a Mental Disorder

With each day, we are noticing children’s difficulties within the world. It’s hard to admit when someone in your life is showing signs of mental abnormalities, especially if it’s a child. According to NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illnesses, half of all chronic mental disorders begin around age 14, for that, one in every five youths experience mental illnesses. While symptoms vary with age and gender, here are a few clues to help you look for if you suspect any developmental or behavioral disorders.

Mood Changes or Frequent Mood Swings

mood swing

Moodiness can be a typical sign of growing up and discovering oneself. However, When it comes to rapidly changing moods or a sudden change in attitude, it can be a signal that something more is going on. Persistent sadness or crying may be the child’s way of showing something deeper is wrong. This behavior can affect the classroom, as well their home life. If you notice signs of isolation or sudden outbursts, be aware that it could be a cause of something more severe.

Eating Disorders

eating disorders

There is a wide range of what is considered normal as far as children’s eating habits. Then again, if there is a vast change in diet or eating schedule it can be cause for concern. Body changes may sometimes be a symptom of struggling youth. There are many clues for eating disorders that fall all over the spectrum. A sudden change in appetite can include refusal to eat, using laxatives or binging and purging. On the other hand, be cautious of overeating and weight gain, which can also be a sign of stress or depression.

Alcohol or Drug abuse

drug abuse

This relates more to the older youths but drug misuse or abuse can happen at any age, at any time. While experimenting with drugs and alcohol can be a part of growing up and acting out, they are also used to grapple with emotions or uneasiness within oneself that may be caused by mental issues. According to SAMHSA or Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2014, approximately 22.5 million Americans, 12 and older, self-reported needing treatment for alcohol or drug misuse.

Increased paranoia


Although fears or worries can be common in children under pre-k, once they reach an older age it becomes a troubling cause. Be aware, there is a difference between normal anxiety and an overly excessive fear created out of thin air. Paranoia is a common sign of mental instability and is not something to be ignored. If you are noticing your child inventing despair and anxiety in their everyday routine, this can be a symptom of something more.

Lack of Concentration

lack of concentration Related: Mental Issues Associated with Spanking

Although children are naturally full of energy and rarely want to sit down when told, a lack of concentration may be more than the average jitters. More and more children each year are getting diagnosed with ADHD or other hyperactive disorders that are becoming a burden. However, just because one feels like their child has a common form of ADHD  this doesn’t mean it should get ignored in hopes the child will grow out of it. With a lack of concentration, a child is affected in school and home life and may cause other issues to evolve if left untreated.

Tic Disorder

tic disorder

Tics and twitches are nonviolent, uncontrollable gestures that normally are not severe. However if left untreated or ignored, a tic can have some serious side effects and could possibly be a sign of a much larger issue. If you are noticing tics or twitches in your child, take note of the duration, the severity, and if the tic affects motor skills, verbal skills or both.

Becomes physically or verbally abusive

violent child

Creating harm towards themselves or others around them can be a warning of a larger mental problem. Nevertheless, the child is acting out when they do not know how to release their anger or other concerning emotions. Physical and verbal abuse can show up anywhere in the child’s life and should never be ignored. The red flag is especially noticeable when they begin to act out towards parents or teachers but do not wait for it to get that severe. One should take notes of all noticeable encounters and if the abuse becomes more frequent, they should consider contacting a specialist.

Falls behind in School

falls behind in school

Although some children naturally excel in school, others do not. This doesn’t necessarily mean the child’s issues are more than being stomped in school. But when the downfall occurs at a rapid pace it may mean there is more going on. Be alert of their course, time in the school year and how they respond when asked about school. Keep an eye on grades dropping as well as a lack of attendance in school.

Change in Personal Schedule

change in habits

This could mean a number of things including a recent change in eating habits, sleeping schedules, or switch in social groups. When it comes to these issues, sleep disturbance is a key warning sign that something may have changed in the child’s brain function. The inability to sleep, eat, or enjoy the company of friends can be leading to depression or some other mental misfire within the child.

Unable to adapt to situations

comfort zone

While a child is growing up it can naturally be difficult for them to adjust to the ever-changing world. However, sometimes the inability to adapt can be leading into something more serious. Whether it’s at school or home, a child should feel comfortable in their surroundings and within their family and friends. This inability to adapt will lead to acting out, violence and many other signals that something is more wrong with their brain functions than normal difficulties in life.\

Related: 8 Parenting Behaviors That Can Disrupt Your Child’s Future

Mental health issues are difficult to spot and each case is individual to the child. All of these factors listed above vary on age and gender and some are more obvious than others. If any of these signs seem familiar when encountering your child and seem like a worried matter, don’t hesitate to talk to your children. Start by creating a judgment-free zone that will help your child feel safe while discussing these ongoing matters. Also, speak with their teachers and coaches to see if the other adults in their life have noticed a change or anything that might be problematic. Lastly, consult with a doctor or specialist to see if more steps need to be taken in order to help your child succeed.



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